Fragile peace prospects on Korean Peninsula

Source:Global Times Published: 2018/5/16 18:58:40

North Korea on early Wednesday morning canceled high-level talks with South Korea, scheduled for later in the day, as a protest against US-South Korean Max Thunder air combat drills. According to reports, US B-52 bombers and eight F-22 Raptor stealth fighter jets will participate in the exercises.

The statement by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency said the drill was "intended military provocation" to the Panmunjom Declaration. It also noted that the US has to "undertake careful deliberations about the fate of the planned North Korea-US summit." A North Korean vice minister of foreign affairs later claimed Pyongyang isn't interested in a summit with the US focused solely on North Korea's unilateral nuclear abandonment. This brings uncertainty to the North Korea-US summit.

Over the past months, Pyongyang has unilaterally adopted a series of actions to reduce tensions on the peninsula, including announcing it will stop nuclear tests and launches of intercontinental ballistic missiles, releasing three US citizens held in North Korea and declaring that it will dismantle its nuclear test site on May 23 to 25. But apart from the Pyongyang-Seoul summit and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's two visits to North Korea, Seoul and Washington have not taken any practical actions to reduce military hostilities or ease sanctions against Pyongyang.

The US stated that maximum pressure will continue until denuclearization occurs. The signal it sent is that Washington demands Pyongyang give up its nuclear weapons as soon as possible and compensation will only come after that. This is quite at odds with North Korea's proposal: carrying out denuclearization in a phased manner with the US providing compensation at the same time.

Sooner or later, Pyongyang will boycott the tough US stance of demanding unilateral concessions. This is the expectation of most analysts. North Korea will not say 'yes' to every single request the US raises. Things won't be that simple.

Some observers believe that Pyongyang's tough stance at this time is aimed at taking the edge off Trump's spirit while increasing its own leverage for the summit with Washington. But whatever the reason, it is unrealistic for the US to ask North Korea to abandon its nuclear weapons while the US itself and Seoul persist with their old ways.

The denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula is bound to be time-consuming and complicated. If Washington wants to reach the goal through maximum pressure at one stroke, it will be disappointed.

The White House needs to adjust its current belief that North Korea should do everything while the US does nothing except remain vigilant. Washington needs to show more flexibility to encourage Pyongyang going forward on the path of denuclearization.

The world is seeing a brand new start where North Korea is halting its nuclear and missile tests. If Trump can continue the trend and get a credible timetable and road map, he would be an extraordinary president. But if he lost the chance and led the peninsula back into confrontation and even war, the North Korea nuclear issue would eventually become the biggest failure of his presidency.

Posted in: EDITORIAL

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